Atlanta United were watching with baited breath Thursday night as two CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifiers with Five Stripe ties went down to the wire. Here’s what went down in South America, with places in the world’s premier international tournament on the line in the final weekend of 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.
Josef Martinez’s scorching club form earned him a spot in the starting lineup for Venezuela as they faced Uruguay. Going against one of the best international center back pairings in the world in Diego Godin and Jose Giménez, it was a scrappy battle for La Vinotinto of Venezuela. The team struggled to get past Uruguay’s pressing defense in midfield and Josef was largely starved of service up top. But he was able to make the most of his limited opportunities – despite only touching the ball 15 times, he was able to get one shot off and create a chance for his teammate with a key pass. Atlanta United fans will be keen to know that he made it through the match without injury, and was subbed off in the 69th minute. Venezuela, who sit at the bottom of CONMEBOL qualifying standings and ineligible for qualification, put up an impressive fight to earn a draw against second-place Uruguay.
While Miguel Almirón remained in Atlanta to continue rehabilitation of his hamstring injury, his Paraguay side had a crucial match on the road against powerhouse Colombia. Sitting four points below the qualification line, only a win would do for La Albirroja coming into the match. After a hard fought hour, it looked like all was lost for Paraguay when Radamel Falcao put Colombia in front in the 79th minute. But Paraguay fought back for a miraculous victory scoring in the 89th and 90th minutes to steal a 2-1 win and bring their qualification chances back from the brink.
Paraguay sit just one point behind Peru and Argentina heading into the final qualification match. They will face Martinez’s Venezuela on Tuesday in a must-win game for Paraguay, in the final World Cup Qualification match before the players return to their club teams.